Thanks to my friend Mike Ferguson who turned me on to John Frederick’s autobiography: Name Droppings on Your Head: A Memoir: My Own Anecdotal Odyssey Through Hollywood's Glamorous Golden Age Blue Dolphin Publishing 1999, ISBN: 1-57733-042-0, 464 pages, 243 photos, 6x9, paper, $22.00 but much cheaper on Amazon I found a copy for less than $6.00. A great read into the life of actor during the Golden Age of films and the people he meets along life’s road.
John Frederick appeared in “Duck You Sucker” as the American on the coach that Juan and his family rob. He also had a role in “Once Upon a Time in the West” as one of Frank’s henchmen who slaughter the McBain family, and a role in “Blindman” with Tony Anthony and Ringo Starr.
John Frederick never met a camera he didn't like, and the feeling was mutual. It's little wonder the actor with the sturdy physique and photogenic face was sought for roles in theater, motion pictures, and television, ranging from hero rancher to despicable villain, from Broadway baritone to movie Tarzan, from big-screen devout cardinal to little-screen hunky Superman.
Frederick's autobiography traces his story from his beginning in rural Iowa where the star-struck farm boy sold his prize calf to fund a trip to Hollywood. The stardust remained in his eyes and the pull of the theater infused his blood. After he returned to his home state for college and a stint with the more conventional job of school teaching, his rendition of Irving Berlin's flag-waving song, "God Bless America," in a movie talent contest during the early days of World War II won him a screen test at RKO.
The adventure had begun. It took him into the theatrical boot camp of little theater, which led to leads on the Broadway stage, which led to a lifetime of hundreds of roles, major and minor, in all showbiz media.
Along the way, Frederick's chosen profession put him next to history being made. Touring the front lines in Ten Little Indians for the USO, he saw war and GIs in raw closeup. Later during his years in Rome he appeared in films for legendary directors Sergio Leone, Luchino Visconte and Federico Fellini, and there he met Oleg Vidov, Russia's Robert Redford, whom he would later help to defect to the United States with some string-pulling assistance from an old Iowa family friend, President Ronald Reagan. Also down the road, he married a movie starlet, chatted with Clark Gable over adjacent urinals, appeared opposite Mae West on Broadway, had tea with Princess Grace at the Monaco palace, escorted Elizabeth Taylor as a "cover" when she and Richard Burton were meeting in public during their clandestine romance, and shared a newspaper with Garbo on a park bench in Switzerland.
He appeared in such films as The Ten Commandments, The Shoes of the Fisherman, Cleopatra, and as Lord of the Jungle in Tarzan Meets His Mate, and on television he acted as John Merrick in series such as Superman, Bonanza, Twilight Zone, Tales of Wells Fargo, Death Valley Days, and Playhouse 90 with Helen Hayes.
Now retired on his ranch-style home in Palm Springs, John Frederick has the leisure to look back on a full life. But friends enrich our lives more than all else, so says John, and his included Mae West, Elizabeth Taylor, Ginger Rogers, and Ronald Reagan. "The past was magnificent, but the future looks even brighter."
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